Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sloggerific Squared

My Dad was visiting from Canada over the weekend, so I thought I had better take him on a Wasatch adventure while he was here. The skiing wasn't looking too amazing, so I thought some good old snow mountaineering might be just the ticket. I had soloed the South Ridge of Superior a few times in the summer when I first moved here and knew it was a cool ridge with classic position and pretty mellow cruxes, so I thought it would be an enjoyable outing and doable despite the far-from-splitter weather forecast. The day turned out to be a little longer than we expected. No major epics, just some serious snow slogging. Cool temperatures mid-week had caused the snow on the ridge to facet, making for deep wallowing on the flat sections, and insecure crampon and ice axe placements on the steeper sections. My Dad cruised all the mixed snow and rock sections despite the fact that he hasn't done much winter climbing, which was cool. There were some old tracks, but for most of the route they had been blown in by new snow. When the going looked tough on the ridge, I made the mistake of thinking we might be better off skinning along the east side (shortcutting into the top of Pinball Alley), but this just made matters worse. Skinning was impossible with the super-faceted nature of the snow, which just slid out from under my skis threatening to send me toppling down the 45 degree slope and over the cliffs below. We changed back into our crampons and wallowed in chest-deep snow across to the top of Pinball Alley. Note to self: stay on the ridge! When we finally made it to the summit, a full-on white out set in, so we walked down the ridge to Little Superior, not wanting to drop into the South Face with zero visibility and potentially firm conditions. The skiing down Little Superior was actually not as horrible as I thought it would be, a bit of a breakable crust, but the apron at the bottom was OK after we crossed the tongues of old, frozen avalanche debris. The day ended well; we poached the hot tub at the Cliff Lodge and enjoyed an ice cold beer, enjoying the view of our wallow tracks up the ridge of Superior across the street.
Leading the way

Dad on the summit

Walking the plank down the ridge

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